Justice in medieval times

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Justice in medieval times

Dictionary and Thesaurus minima non curat lex 1. When the Germanic tribes entered the lands of the Western Roman empire, they brought many of their customs and traditions with them, among them being those customs and traditions that comprised their system of justice.

The bases of those systems among the various peoples appear to have been much the same. The operative unit of society was the kindred, the clan or extended family. When the member of one kindred harmed the member of another in person or in property, the aggrieved persons relatives sought retribution in what is now termed a vendetta or feud.

Given the collective nature in which people operated, it should come as no surprise to find that retribution was not sought specifically from the person at fault, but from him or any member of his kindred.

The problem with this system is that retribution betprends upon an equivalence between injury and punishment, and this is not always a simple matter to establish.

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It is only human for a plaintiff to consider the value of his loss more highly than the defendant gauges his own responsibility.

There was always the danger that a kindred would consider that there opponents had been overreachig in their retribution and would seek their own retribution as a means of striking what they might consider a suitable balance.

Such games of tit for tat could go on for years with men being killed long after the original basis of complaint had been forgotten. At some period in their development, the Germans tried to overcome the defects of this system of maintaining law and order.

They turned to their chieftains to act as arbitrators in disputes between kindreds. The first matter was to reach a decision on the facts of the case, and several means arose. Compurgation meant that the person accused of a crime was required to swear an oath that he was innocent and, depending on the seriousness of the offense, he might be required to persuade a greater or lesser number of the leading members of his kindred to swear the same oath along with him.

The may seem similar to the modern practice of offering character witnesses, but was really quite different. If it turned out that the defendant were lying about his injury he and all of his compurgators were liable to suffer the same punishment.

In addition, the leaders of a kindred might not be willing to places the lives and properties of members of their clan at risk in order to support a person who they knew not to be of the highest character. So if was that some people were abandoned by their own kindred and had to flee the vengeance of the relatives of their victim.

Lacking compurgators or by order of the arbitrator, the accused, after having taken a solemn oath of his innocence, might be required to undergo any of a variety of ordeals to prove his innocence. Such ordeals included that of cold water, in which the defendant was bound hand and foot and thrown into a pool of water that had been previously blessed by a priest.

On the belief that holy water would reject a liar who had foresworn a holy oath, it was believed that the guilty would float and the innocent would sink. In the order of hot water, the accused would put his hand in boiling water while swearing his oath. The hand would immediately be bandaged and if, after a week, it was found to be not badly blistered, the person was considered innocent.

Although these procedures may seem extremely crude to people today, one should consider that a person would think long and hard before entrusting his fate to such painful processes. One suspects that most conflicts were settled long before they reached the stage of the defendant undergoing an ordeal.

Believing that God would not allow the guilty to prosper, important matters were often settled by the ordeal of combat. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant actually had to enter the field of combat, but were allowed to choose champions to fight in their place.

Each combatant would swear by the right of the cause of the person whom their represented and, in the ensuing combat, God would strengthen the arm of whichever had sworn to uphold the right. This may seem more than a bit happistance, but this particular custom persisted into the Middle Ages not only as an important element of civil law, but was sometimes called upon to settle disputes between nations.

In fact, trial by combat persisted into the present day and underlies both the basic principles and minor details of modern law. The defendant is represented by an attorney as is the state, and they engage in a form of combat with acting judge acting to ensure that the opponents follow proper procedure.

The "Barbarian" Codes In the course of time and under the influence of the Roman example, several of the monarchs of German tribes attempted to reduce their customs and traditions to a written form.

The result was the so-called barbarian codes.

Justice in medieval times

During the thirteenth century, law developed a greater complexity and sophistication. This was partly the result of new influences, a new outlook, and the general crystallization of society.Middle Ages Justice & Law - Local Judicial Systems The decline of the Feudal system led to courts being established in large towns.

The members of the Guilds became very important members of the Medieval town community of the Middle Ages. During the medieval times, there were several important social virtues amongst the people, not only were they important but they also made sense and could fit together relating it to the context and setting.

Law and order was very harsh in Medieval England. Those in charge of law and order believed that people would only learn how to behave properly if they feared what would happen to them if they broke the law.

Marriage in Medieval Times By Rachelle Carter. When someone says the word marriage today we think about two people who are in love and who want to spend the rest of their lives with each other. Violence and the Law in Medieval England How dangerous was life in the Middle Ages?

Justice, medieval style - The Boston Globe

Sean McGlynn gets to grips with the level of violent crime, and the sometimes cruel justice meted out to offenders. Justice is the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered. As with most philosophically-driven disciplines, the concept of justice differs in every rutadeltambor.com early theory of justice was set out by the Ancient Greek philosopher Plato in his work The rutadeltambor.comtes of divine command theory say that justice issues from God.

Law in the Middle Ages | Middle Ages